Saturday, 26 December 2009

Twist & Shout

Twist & Shout
Giant Torayan
Mega Death
Twist & Shout: Contemporary Art From Japan is a multi-media exhibition featuring Japanese art from the past decade, at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre from 20th November 2009 to 10th January 2010. The exhibition makes full use of the BACC's gallery spaces, with large artworks in corridors, in specially-created rooms and huts, and on the ceiling.

Kusama Yayoi's Dots Obesssions (1999) features polka dots stuck to the floor, on the walls, and hanging in mid-air. Yanobe Kenji's Giant Torayan (2005; a metal robot standing three storeys high), is the exhibition's most iconic sculpture, though Miyajima Tatsuo's Mega Death (1999; vast LED displays emitting an ominous blue glow) is an even more stunning installation.

Many of the artists are influenced by Sekaikei, a narrative genre which avoids historical, political, or social commentary, and the result is a collection of hyper-real pieces in a bright Pop Art style.

Friday, 25 December 2009

What Is Design?

What Is Design?
Citroen DS1
An expanded version of TCDC's What Is Design? opened on 21st November. The former exhibition's VW Beetle has been replaced by a Citreon DS1, and recent examples of Thai product design have been added to the collection.

The collection is organised geographically, according to the 'genius loci' (Genius Of The Place) principle. It's scheduled to run until 31st November 2016.

Cinema Now

Cinema Now
Cinema Now, written by Andrew Bailey and edited (like Art Cinema, and over fifty other Taschen film books) by Paul Duncan, profiles sixty contemporary directors and a selection of their most recent films. Each director is introduced with a single paragraph of text, followed by several pages of film stills.

Some of the featured directors (and their films) are: Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother; Talk To Her; Volver), Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain), Catherine Breillat (Romance; Anatomy Of Hell), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros; Babel), Michael Haneke (Cache), Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven), Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich; Adaptation), Fernando Meirelles (City Of God), John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus), Christopher Nolan (Memento), Gyorgy Palfi (Taxidermia), Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy; Sympathy For Lady Vengeance), Alexander Payne (About Schmidt; 14e Arrondissement), Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Invisible Waves), Cristi Puiu (The Death Of Mr Lazarescu), Tsai Ming-Liang (Goodbye, Dragon Inn), Gus van Sant (My Own Private Idaho), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady; Syndromes & A Century), Wong Kar-Wai (In The Mood For Love; 2046), and Zhang Yimou (Curse Of The Golden Flower). Notable omissions include Wisit Sasanatieng, Gaspar Noe, Lars von Trier, and Quentin Tarantino, all of whom made their debuts in the 1990s and are still producing consistently interesting films.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Art Cinema

Art Cinema
Art Cinema, written by Paul Young, edited by Paul Duncan, and published by Taschen, is a survey of avant-garde film-making from its origins in the 1910s to the present day. Each chapter focuses on a specific film/art genre, such as Surrealist Cinema, Abstraction, The City Symphony, Structuralism, Expanded Cinema (a term borrowed from Stan van der Beek and Gene Youndblood), and Collage, amongst others. The format is similar to Amos Vogel's seminal Film As A Subversive Art: a series of short essays accompanied by numerous rare film stills with extended captions.

Young's survey is comprehensive in scope though lacking in detail. There are less than 200 pages, most of which are dominated by large, full-colour images which limit the historical or analytical content of the text. There is a reasonable bibliography, though the filmography, with only ten entries, is absurdly brief. Also, the non-chronological organisation coupled with the lack of an index limits the book's potential as a source of reference. It is, however, a beautiful coffee-table book, full of superbly reproduced photographs.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

"Do not take this picture"

The Independent
Alex Turner
Earlier this month, The Independent newspaper highlighted several recent cases of photographers who were questioned by UK police after taking photos in public. Alex Turner was arrested for photographing two police officers who questioned him after he took photos in Chatham.

Not included in the 3rd December Independent report are the cases of Bob Patefield, Simona Bonomo, and Pericles Antoniou. Patefield was arrested in Accrington yesterday, after photographing Christmas festivities in the town centre. Bonomo was arrested a month earlier while filming buildings in Paddington, London. Antoniou was arrested in May after he took photos on the London Underground.

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Saturday, 19 December 2009

Avatar

Avatar
Avatar is James Cameron's first feature film in twelve years. After the success of Titanic (eleven Oscars, equal to Ben-Hur; record-breaking box-office exceeding $1,000,000,000), he concentrated on television documentaries, as presenter of 2001: The Making Of A Myth and executive producer of The Lost Tomb Of Jesus.

Like Stanley Kubrick's delayed (and ultimately posthumous) AI, Cameron postponed the development of Avatar until CGI was sufficiently advanced. Apparently, it was the motion capture technology used to create Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings (I, II, and III) that convinced him to begin production. Cameron himself has also been a CGI pioneer: the morphing effects of the T-1000 were the highlights of Terminator II, the action sequel to his intelligent Noir/SF The Terminator.

Avatar has a whole new world to introduce: Pandoran flora and fauna (bioluminescent and fascinating), Na'vi mythology, and even a new language. The result bears comparison with the ecosystem and mythology in Star Wars IV-VI, and Avatar may revolutionise SF in a similar way, though it also results in similarly flat, expository dialogue. (There is an obligatory "You are not in Kansas" Wizard Of Oz reference.) Avatar's plot revolves around a mineral called unobtainium, though this (as its name suggests) is merely a MacGuffin, providing the initial motivation for the characters to assume their avatar forms (a process similar to The Matrix, and also a metaphor for Avatar's motion-capture technology).

The invasion of Pandora has clear parallels with America's wars against Vietnam and Iraq, a point hammered home by the script ("hearts and minds"; "shock and awe"). The extensive battle footage is surely aimed at teenage boys (Hollywood's current favourite demographic), though this is offset by the film's Titanic-style romance and its conservationist, pacifist message (a painful reminder of "I know now why you cry" from Terminator II).

I'm not usually a fan of CGI, as it's too often used as an easy alternative to traditional effects (as in, for example, the most recent King Kong remake), though in Avatar the CGI enables Cameron to create a stunningly photo-realistic ecosystem populated by believable motion-capture characters. Before its release, Avatar was breathlessly described as 'the future of cinema' by reviewers who had not seen it; while not representing a paradigm shift in film-making itself, the film's epic spectacle and subtly immersive 3D will hopefully lure YouTube/iPod viewers back into cinemas. (Avatar was conceived and filmed as a 3D production, though a 2D version is also screening at some cinemas.)

Friday, 18 December 2009

Leo Body Paint 2010

Leo Body Paint 2010
According to the Thai Ministry of Public Health, charges may be brought against Boon Rawd after it distributed a Leo Body Paint 2010 calendar featuring models painted with the Leo logo. Leo is a beer brand brewed by Boon Rawd, and the Ministry claims that the brewery is using the calendar to promote alcohol in contravention of last year's Alcohol Beverage Control Act.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Daily Xpress

Daily Xpress
The Nation newspaper relaunched itself today, dropping the business slogan it adopted in 2008. This puts it back in direct competition with its (slightly better) rival, the Bangkok Post.

This "minor revamp", as the newspaper described it yesterday, includes the termination of the Daily Xpress. In a letter to readers yesterday, the Xpress's editor wrote: "This is the last issue of Daily Xpress", and signed off with "SEE YA". The Xpress was launched in 2008; subsequently, its pagination shrank and its original content declined, and its design was never modified or updated.